This winter I decided to have a go at a new sport: Cyclo-Cross. I had heard of it before, but I didn't really know much about it. I thought it was a mixture of cycling and cross country running, both of which I have done before and I knew it also involved getting on and off your bike as quickly as possible too, which I'd also done before for triathlon transitions. So I bought a cyclocross bike (similar to a road bike but with disk brakes and knobbly tyres) and entered a race.
Temple Newsam 5th October 2014
I decided to start with the novice race at Temple Newsam, but unfortunately I got two punctures and only had one spare inner tube with me so I only managed a couple of laps before I had to stop. Luckily I had time to go home for more supplies and come back for the women's race in the afternoon. I found the section through the woods tricky with lots of tree roots to negotiate, but as the rest of the course was short grass and not very muddy I managed OK and finished 9th woman, just avoiding being lapped by the lead women Annie Simpson and Amira Mellor, who I didn't realise at the time, but are brilliant cyclists finishing 8th and 4th (1st Junior) at the National Cyclo-Cross Championships this year.
Skipton 19th October 2014
I found the race at Skipton a lot more difficult, I was sliding all over the place and probably ended up doing more running than cycling! Watching the elite races later in the day, I realised this was not the fastest way to get round the course as they hardly did any running at all. Then speaking to other cyclists after the race, I realised my tyre pressure was way too high and the lower the tyre pressure the easier it is to cycle on the mud, a good lesson for my next race.
Ilkley 26th October 2014
After going round the course to warm up, I nearly didn't start this race... Through the woods there was a narrow bridge to ride over, a fallen tree to climb over and a narrow, muddy, tree-rooty descent. All in all it looked a bit beyond my cyclocross skill level! But after chatting to fellow albaRosa riders Jill, Ken and Richard I decided 'I might as well start and see how I get on'. So I set off quite cautiously, but once I'd made it round one lap I knew I could make it round another five and I started to make my way through the field. I was passing people running up a hill but most of them were coming back past me on the way down again. I felt like I was getting better with each lap though and I finished 2nd woman, my first cyclocross podium.
Sheffield 23rd November 2014
The course at Sheffield was very muddy by the time the women's race came round. There was an uphill start and without going for it I found myself near the front. I felt a lot more comfortable in the mud this time and despite a couple of falls on the first lap on slippery corners I felt strong and was starting to enjoy myself. Unfortunately my bike wasn't enjoying it quite so much and each lap was getting harder until I couldn't actually turn the pedals round any more. Worried that my bike was broken I wasted a lot of time running around the course until I got to the pits to ask for help. Turns out it wasn't broken it was just very very clogged up with mud. Another lesson learnt-if you don't have a spare bike to change onto during the race (a strange practice that many people used in this race) then carry your bike over the super muddy bits and try to scrape some of the mud off at the same time.
So a mixed set of results for my first attempts at cyclocross. I enjoyed the challenge of doing something quite different to what I'm used to-having never ridden off road before! And I certainly found the technical sections very difficult, but I think the mud and the hills actually suit me quite well. It's back to the road for now where I plan to do a few circuit races, road races and maybe some time trials, but I'll definitely have another go at cyclocross next winter.
Yorkshire Cyclo-Cross Results here.